Rhys McClenaghan claims gold to became Ireland's first gymnastics world champion

Rhys McClenaghan claims gold to became Ireland's first gymnastics world champion

GYMNAST Rhys McClenaghan won gold at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Liverpool on Saturday to become Ireland's first world gymnastics champion.

The 23-year-old from Co. Down was third up in the Men's Pommel Horse Final, with the previous two competitors both suffering slips during their routines.

McClenaghan's score of 15.300 during a routine rated 6.400 for difficulty put him into first place.

With a rating of 6.400, McClenaghan's routine was deemed the most difficult by the judges (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Despite impressive routines from Armenia's Harutyun Merdinyan and Ahmad Abu Al Soud of Jordan, none of the five other competitors could dislodge the Newtownards man.

Abu Al Soud's silver was Jordan's first medal at the championships, while 38-year-old Merdinyan became the oldest ever medallist in the competition's history as he took bronze.

McClenaghan, who won bronze at the 2019 championships, said he had fulfilled a dream by claiming gold.

"This has been a long time coming," he said.

"It has been a difficult year but I'm glad I could finish it off with my greatest achievement ever.

"It's something I've dreamed of for many years.

"I've dedicated my life to this sport and to be world champion makes it all worthwhile.

McClenaghan wit his gold medal (Image: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

"It just proves to myself and many others I'm still capable of going [to Paris 2024] and winning Olympic gold, which is a very exciting thought.

"I know I can perform under this immense pressure and I can do the same in Paris."

An early dismount in the Men's Pommel Horse Final derailed McClenaghan's medal hopes at the previous Olympic Games in Tokyo, but he will be confident of rectifying that in France.

He added that his Olympic disappointment and surprising early exit at this year's European Championships fuelled his desire for victory in Liverpool.

"You just learn from [your mistakes] — if you don't, you can't go to the next competition and improve," he said.

"That's exactly what I've done. I've learned from all the mistakes I had and put them all into this routine."

Saturday's gold follows silver for McClenaghan in the Pommel Horse at this year's Commonwealth Games while representing Northern Ireland.

McClenaghan, centre, with silver medallist Ahmad Abu Al-Soud of Jordan, left, and bronze medallist Harutyun Merdinyan of Armenia, right (Image: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)